Brig. Arun Bhimrao Harolikar, MVC


Courageous and patriotic officer (1934-2008)

Brig. Arun Harolikar was born on 6 December 1934. He studied at New High School, Kolhapur, and Rajaram College, Kolhapur. He was commissioned into 3/5 GR (Gorkha Rifles). Three months after joining the unit, he was wounded in an attack on a strongly held Naga position. It was in this action that Ran Bahadur Thapa was awarded Kirti Chakra, the first gallantry award won by the unit after Independence.

Arun was looking forward to commanding this unit, when to his surprise, he received orders in August 1971 to take over command of 4/5 GR at Zakhama in Nagaland. A week later, the unit was moved to Panchgram, West of Silchar. His disappointment in not getting the command of his old unit was soon overcome as 4/5 GR had earned a name for itself in counter-insurgency operations by capturing well known insurgency leaders. In the second week of November, orders were received to capture an enemy defended locality at Atgram which was about five km inside the Pakistan territory. It had been developed by the Pakistan Army as a strong point to deny approach to the strategically important town of Sylhet, and was being used by them for sabotage activities. It had cement concrete bunkers supported by machine guns and RCL guns. River Surma was the international border, and there were a string of border posts manned by military and para-military troops about a kilometre deep.

The unit infiltrated through the border posts, arrived at the bank of River Surma at 8 pm on 20 November, and crossed over in inflatable boats without alerting the enemy. Arun had a few rounds of artillery fired on the objective, and the enemy opened up with Medium Machine Guns, thus revealing their location. The Gorkhas charged with their khukri-s and the famous nerve chilling war cry Äyo Gorkhali. There was blood bath all over with the Gorkhas flashing their khukri-s. Arun entered one of the big bunkers and realised that the enemy company commander was lying there. Posing as dead. As Arun went closer to him, one of the officers shouted a warning that the rival officer was trying to pick up a gun lying next to him. Arun rushed forward and grappled with the enemy company commander, Major Alvi. Alvi was overcome and killed. The unit lost two officers, one JCO and three soldiers. The enemy company of 31 Punjab Regiment was wiped out. Rifleman Dil Bahadur Chhetri was awarded MVC and Lt Hawa Singh was decorated with Vir Chakra (VrC) (posthumous).

The battalion, part of 59 Mountain Brigade, occupied Sagarnal. Attack by 6 Rajput on Ghazipur on 3 December failed, and 4/5 GR was ordered to attack Ghazipur on 4 December. The Pakistanis had become alert due to the attack on 3 December. It was a tough battle and the Ghazipur Tea Estate was captured early morning. One officer and ten soldiers were killed. Pakistan had suffered heavy casualties. 4/5 GR had a depleted strength of 50 to 60 soldiers in place of 120. But their spirit was high due to the recent victories, and they got ready for the next task of Sylhet, which had been developed as a fortress by the Pakistan Army.

Sylhet appeared to be unoccupied and a heli-borne operation was planned. 4/5 GR was heli-lifted on 7 December and were welcomed by enemy fire and shouts of their war cry – Allah-o-Akbar. The response of Ayo Gurkhali kept them away, and they did not even try to evict the Gorkhas. The Brigade Commander ensured supply of urgent medicines and one helicopter flown by Flying Officer Sharma took a few casualties. He had a brush with Pakistani soldiers, and was awarded the VrC. On 16 December, Pakistani soldiers approached with a white flag and details of surrender were discussed. 107 officers, 219 JCOs and 6190 soldiers surrendered. Lt. Col. (later brigadier) Harolikar was awarded Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) for outstanding courage and leadership. He settled down in Pune and passed away in 2008.

– Brigadier Suresh Chandra Sharma (retd.)